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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Local Dirt Lets Small Farms Sell Direct on the Web

Posted By on Tue, May 11, 2010 at 4:43 PM

click to enlarge Hook up with small farms anywhere in the country.
  • Hook up with small farms anywhere in the country.
Every week it seems we hear about another website designed to make our pre-industrialized, corporation-free eating habits easier to come by. The irony of marrying design strategy and high-tech to bring folks closer to the land is always palpable ― even when such a project actually delivers on its promise.

As far as these things go, Local Dirt looks pretty good: Founded last year in Madison, Wisc., the website puts local farmers in touch with food buyers, including restaurants, grocery stores, and individuals. The site posts information about local farms across the country, including profiles of the owners, and a product ordered through the site comes labeled with the farm's name as well as the number of miles it traveled to reach the customer. As of an Inc. magazine report early last month, 1,000 businesses had signed up for the service ― at $360 a pop.

In the Bay Area, local growers are demi-celebrities. They appear on panels and give lectures and interviews. Their esoteric ranch and farm names speckle the menus of famous restaurants eager to reveal the worthy provenance of their ingredients. Tourists (and a few real shoppers) flock their stalls at the Ferry Plaza farmers' market. While the trend of celebrating farmers and artisan producers has definitely spread out around the country, such operations bask in less luminous lights in other regions.

Thus, Local Dirt's real effect may be felt far from here. For example, we searched for farms within 100 miles of our hometown ― a largely full-grown city in a state tucked between the Midwest and South ― and immediately uncovered a fancy sustainable wildflower honey producer we never knew existed. At the same time, Local Dirt will probably get more attention around these parts ― invariably a hotbed for emerging local foods trends.

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Andrew Simmons

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